It happened to me: Asking the right question

by | Nov 8, 2022

Safety moment: CIF members share personal experiences from on and off site to raise awareness of real-life issues affecting people working in the industry

My safety moment encompasses mental health, corporate responsibility and good business practice. On site, late one night, I found a groundwork contractor in a steel container. Initially I thought it was a burglary but the reality was much worse.

The groundwork contractor was sitting on the floor, visibly very upset and staring at a roll of blue rope. I talked to the man and convinced him to come to the office for tea and a chat. It eventually transpired that the man had made errors in relation to a tender, which caused him financial difficulties while working with the company.

His eagerness to get into what he believed to be more profitable work on bigger projects had meant he hadn’t considered all the possible outcomes of the contract at hand.

There was no way our company was going to knowingly drive a worker to the point of no return. I told the man we would examine the tender the next day to see where matters could be eased and to try and get him to a ‘breakeven point’ or his head above water.

A mentor once advised me ‘that it is easier to give a jockey that has fallen off a hand to get back on the horse, than go out and find a new jockey’. Business owners and managers have responsibilities and while profitability is high on the list they also have a responsibility to their colleagues in construction.

This is to ensure that not only are they providing a safe site to work in, but that they are not causing such stresses that someone would do harm to themselves. The question is how do business owners and managers marry the responsibilities of ensuring their projects are delivered in timely and profitable fashion as well as ensuring those below them are safe?

For me the answer is a mix of corporate responsibility and due diligence. Employers would not allow people to use a consaw without the proper training and checking that the tickets are valid, therefore why would employers give someone a contract that is well past their means to complete.

Most business owners and managers will do due diligence on those above them on the contractual ladder to ensure they get paid, but doing the same due diligence on those below is essential.

Questions that need to be asked is whether they handle the contract from a commercial point of view? Can they trade with the credit terms on the table?

Have owners and managers priced the main contract correctly so that they are not beating down their sub-contractors to make their own ends meet? In a time when good resources are becoming scarce, companies need to look out for each other as their success relies heavily on the success of others.

If you have a Safety Moment you’d like to share, contact The CIF team.

Help is always at hand:

Lighthouse Club – The Lighthouse Club, the Construction Industry Charity, supported by the CIF, offers a FREE 24/7 confidential employee assistance helpline and app for everyone in the Irish construction industry. The Helpline can be called anytime on 1800 939 122, and the app ‘Construction Industry Helpline’ can be downloaded for free from Apple and Google Play app store.

Build Health – ‘Build Health’ is a joint initiative between the CIF, Laya Healthcare and Spectrum Life that can support both employers and employees. See www.wellbeing.spectrum.life/cif/ for more

Construction Workers’ Sick Pay Trust – The trust is committed to the promotion of better health, including mental health and wellbeing for all workers in the construction sector. For information on how to claim, please visit www.cwspt.ie or email [email protected] or call 01-4977663.

50808 – The Health Services Executive offers a text-based mental health service. A free 24/7 text service providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for people going through mental health or emotional crisis. For free 24/7 support in a crisis, free text ‘HELLO’ to 50808.

Pieta House – To speak with a therapist any time, day, or night, freephone 1800 247 247 or text ‘HELP’ to 51444

Aware – Freephone Aware’s SupportLine is available Monday to Sunday from 10am – 10pm on 1800 80 48 48 or email: [email protected]

Samaritans – If you need someone to talk to, the Samaritans can provide one-to-one help 24-hours per day. Freephone 116 123 or email: [email protected]

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